By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—Coming into Monday night’s opening game of the boys’ 11-12 year old Area 2 All-Star Tournament, North Laurel coach Greg Binder was hoping his team could get past Corbin without having to call on ace Noah Smith.
That wasn’t the case, but North Laurel did get past Corbin, 4-3, to advance to last night’s winner bracket final against Clay County, an 8-6 winner over South London in the second game.
“They (Corbin) gave us way more than we wanted,” Binder said. “We didn’t expect to have to use Noah.”
The game was a scoreless affair through until the bottom of the third when Corbin took a 2-0 lead. North Laurel had its chances early, leaving six runners on base in the first three innings, including the bases loaded in the second.
“We put the ball in play, they just made some really good defensive plays,” Binder said. “They didn’t make many mistakes. We didn’t either.”
Hutton Shepherd got the start for North Laurel and pitched well until he ran out of gas in the bottom of the fourth inning, allowing the first two runners to get hits before being lifted for Smith.
“Hutton pitched awesome, he just got tired,” Binder said.
Corbin took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Jacob Unthank and Nick Yeager scored on a bases loaded single by Brody Barton. North got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth when Dalton Sizemore doubled to left with one out and scored on a single by Alex Binder.
In the bottom of the inning Corbin’s Caleb Van Norstrand led off with a bunt single, followed by a single from Austin Reynolds, and that was all for Shepherd, as Smith took over on the mound. He walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, then came back to strike out the next two before getting Yeager to ground out to end the inning.
North tied the game in the fifth when Smith led off the inning with a solo home run to left to make it 2-2.
It stayed tied until the top of the seventh when North scored twice to take a 4-2 lead. Binder got things started with a single, followed by another single from Ben Philpot. Smith’s single to center scored Binder, and when Shepherd grounded out to first, Anthony Fanella, running for Philpot, came home for the 4-2 lead.
Corbin tried to rally in the bottom of the inning when, with one out, Yeager walked and scored on a triple by Jordan Fox to cut the lead to 4-3. But Smith fanned the next two batters to seal the win for North Laurel. In his four innings of work, Smith struck out nine batters.
“Noah threw nothing but strikes and fast balls,” Binder said. “I was trying to save him. That was my original plan. But we wanted to win this game.”
Clay County 8, South London 6
Clay County knocked South London into the loser’s bracket Monday night in a game that didn’t end until midnight with an 8-6 win.
The heavy rains that hit the area Monday night pushed the game times from 6 and 8 p.m. until 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. And when the first game went into extra innings, that meant this game would start even later.
South London struck for two runs in the top of the first of Clay County pitcher Jakob Begley as Matthew Dalton and James Shoptaw both singled with one out. Dalton scored on a ground out by Corey Deaton, the a single by Layne McClure brought home Shoptaw for the 2-0 lead.
But that lead didn’t last long.
Clay County came back for four runs in the bottom of the first on just two hits as starter Dalton struggled to find the strike zone. He walked the first two batters he faced before D.J. McCulley took a first pitch offering and deposited it over the centerfield fence for a 3-2 lead. Dalton would walked the next two batters before being lifted for Deaton.
The first batter Deaton faced, Chandler Hibbard, singled to load the bases for Connor Robinson, who singled to tight to score Jacob Curry for the 4-2 lead. Deaton fanned the next two batters to end the inning.
South had a chance in the top of the second when, with two outs, Dalton and Dalton Garland hit back-to-back singles, but were left stranded when Shoptaw grounded back to the pitcher.
Clay tacked two more runs on its lead in the bottom of the second to make it 6-2. South continued to hang tough, scoring twice in the top of the third to cut the lead to 6-4.
With one out, McClure singled. Cameron Eggers hit back to Begley, who threw to second in an attempt to get McClure, but the ball was dropped and both runners were safe. They would move up on a wild pitch, then McClure scored on another one. Eggers later scored when Landon Roark stole second and Eggers raced home from third and beat the throw home.
Clay got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning when Tyler Preston singled and later scored on a passed ball to make it 7-4.
South cut the lead to 7-5 in the top of the first as McClure reached on a one-out error then scored when Eggers singled to right, where the ball was misplayed, allowing the run to come home and Eggers to end up on third.
Another Clay run in the bottom of the inning made it 8-5, but it could have been more had it not been for a nice play at second by Dakota Salva to end the inning. Clay had two runners on when McCulley hit a sharp grounded that Salva went down on the ground to field with his backhand, then threw to first for the out.
South London tried to rally in the top of the sixth, but came up just short, falling 8-6.
With one out, Dalton singled, and that was all for Begley, who was replaced by McCulley. After striking out Johnson, Shoptaw walked and Deaton reached on an error which scored Dalton. But McClure grounded out to first to end the game.
South London was scheduled to face Corbin last night in the loser’s bracket.